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Here’s How to Protect Yourself From Food Allergies While You Travel

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola

Finally! You’re on that dream vacation or holiday and you can’t wait to sample the local food fare. But before you take that first bite, consider: Is it going to land you in the hospital — or even kill you? People with severe food allergies are faced with this dilemma daily. If your allergy is bad enough, even a microscopic ingredient can send you into anaphylaxis, and potentially kill you.

If you have food allergies, The New York Times has a few suggestions for planning ahead when you travel. Keep a card with you listing your allergies, with details on specific food restrictions. Also, never assume that any food or beverage is safe; ask your server pointed questions about ingredients that may be used to prepare the foods, but aren’t actually part of the dish. Additionally, pack your own snacks; consider staying where you can cook your own food and, lastly, don’t forget your allergy meds.

Food allergies are the fifth leading chronic illness in the U.S., and their incidence is on the rise. Since many dietary factors influence the health of your gut, and subsequently your overall health, it’s important to do as much as you can to maintain your gut health.

It’s known that food allergies tend to run in families, which suggests a genetic component. However, other theories for why food allergies are becoming commonplace point to a more complex environmental, as well as lifestyle-related, cause. When it comes to lifestyle factors, one big influencer is the processed food industry.

If you eat poor-quality foods, especially ones that cause insulin/leptin resistance, you will increase your risk of allergies — and processed foods are some of the poorest quality foods on Earth. Sure, their packaging may declare that they’re “fortified,” “natural” or “wholesome.” But that doesn’t mean their quality is equal to what you get when you eat real, unprocessed, whole foods.

“Fortified” generally means that synthetic vitamins have been added to make up for what’s not in the actual product. “Natural” can mean flavorings that are made in a laboratory. And, “wholesome” or “pure” foods can also legally be doctored with flavor packs for aroma and taste — without the manufacturer ever having to disclose that on the label.

When it comes to children, research has found that junk food increases a child's risk of asthma and allergies. Food preservatives are also known to trigger asthma attacks in some people, particularly sulfites, which are found in foods like shrimp, dried fruits and wine. They include:

  • Sodium bisulfite
  • Potassium bisulfite
  • Sodium metabisulfite
  • Potassium metabisulfite
  • Sodium sulfite

So, what do you do if you have food allergies and you want to travel? As the featured article suggests, make sure you prep for the trip just as you would plan what clothing you’re going to pack and wear. Once you’ve arrived to your destination, you may even want to call ahead to talk to the chef of a restaurant you plan to visit. Or, since many restaurants now post their menus online, you could even check that first, so you know which questions to ask and have an idea which entrees you can order.

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